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We’re living on social, but are brands living up?


We’re living on social, but are brands living up? We’re living on social, but are brands living up?

Key Takeaways

  • Consumers are looking for brands to take social issues seriously and not use them to take advantage of people.
  • Brands need to be authentic on social media and take a stand on critical issues to show they care.
  • It's important for brands to acknowledge what they don't know and to be accountable for their actions.
  • Brands need to go beyond social media posts and take concrete actions to support social causes.

About 3.8 billion of us are on social media globally. And with most people working remotely because of COVID-19, we're spending more time on it than ever before. Add to it the killing of George Floyd and the protests against racial injustice around the world, the prevalence and relevance of social media simply can't be denied. It's primarily how brands are communicating during these unprecedented times, more than other channels, traditional press releases, or news conferences. So, what are they saying? And are consumers buying it? Let's dig in. 

Good (and bad) brand behavior is contagious

According to a recent Harvard Business School study of 12,000 consumers in 12 countries about COVID-19, people are looking for brands to take the health issue seriously, offer advice about what they are doing to help, and not use the crisis to take advantage of people. And they are putting their money where their mouths are: 71% say the companies that put profits above people will lose them forever. Brands can help by educating consumers about coronavirus, offering free or lower-priced products (like the 100,000 mattresses Serta donated to hospitals), and emphasizing the social in social distancing, such as Chipotle's celebrity Zoom hangout for 3,000 lucky customers. 

Acknowledge & take a stand

The stakes are much higher, of course, when it comes to weighing in on police brutality and racism. Linda Ong, Chief Culture Officer of the Civic Entertainment Group, puts it this way: “There is only one side to take, and that is of humanity.” Consumers don't just want the brands they support to weigh in at this critical time in history, they expect it. Sonia Thompson, CEO of the Thompson Media Group, recently told Inc., “Your customers, particularly your black customers, want to know whether the brands they spend their hard-earned dollars on are for them. They want to know that your brand cares about them as people, not just as customers.” A company's tweets and posts (or lack of them) can help answer what kind of a brand they are.

Always be you

Long before 2020, social media was fertile ground for keeping stuff real. About 46% of consumers have “called out a brand” and 4 out of 5 consumers think the platforms have made brands more accountable. So, when responding to a global pandemic and to systemic racism, brands need to make sure they're authentic. Nike posted a one-minute video called For once, Just Don't Do It, imploring people not to ignore racial injustice. It's got over 15 million views on Instagram and nearly 6 million likes. To help out-of-work bartenders due to the COVID crisis, Miller Lite tweeted an empty bar stating “Taps are off. Tips are still needed.” and started a virtual tip jar with $1 million of their own money.